Is “checking in” on its way out? The practice of consumers using geolocation services to check in with businesses and earn rewards never really caught on widely with users. Sure, depending on your target customer’s age range and level of tech know-how, you may have had people passionately competing to be the “mayor” of your yogurt shop. But most consumers didn’t have the time or inclination to check in simply to earn badges, online status or play games.
Data earlier this year from the Pew Internet & American Life Project showed that although 58 percent of smartphone owners were using location-based services on their phones, a mere 12 percent had ever checked in. And since not all mobile phone users own smartphones, a mere 4 percent of adult mobile phone owners in general had ever checked in. Since Facebook apparently just absorbed and killed geolocation service Gowalla, it would seem there’d be even less interest in check-ins going forward.
But that may not be entirely true, as eMarketer suggests, citing data from mobile advertising and marketing firm Hipcricket showing 54 percent of smartphone owners are interested in getting time- or location-based offers on their phones. That stat is from an October 2011 survey—in other words, before the holiday shopping season officially started—and if the current holiday shopping season has taught us anything, it’s that mobile offers are very much on consumers’ minds.
What’s more, Portfolio cites Forrester Research stats saying geolocation services are being used by an increasingly “gender-neutral” population. In other words, women now account for a greater percentage of users—37 percent, up from 22 percent in 2010.
Whether male or female, geolocation users are desirable customers: Forrester found they are typically college graduates aged 23 to 31. And Facebook obviously sees the potential in geolocation services.
What does all this mean to your small business?
First, when it comes to shopping, consumers don’t mess around. Clearly, they love using their mobile phones during the shopping process, but that doesn’t mean they want to use them to play games. They’re using them to find deals, specials and coupons—so that’s what you need to offer. What’s more, while checking in requires a smartphone, getting deals doesn’t. Even a basic cell phone can receive SMS (text) offers if a consumer opts in, which means you can target a wider group of prospects.
Second, women are getting in on geolocation. Back when geolocation was primarily about checking in and boasting about where you were, women were far less likely to participate than men—and for good reason. Women are nervous about letting total strangers know where they are at any given moment. There’s a world of difference between announcing your location to get a virtual badge, and letting a company know your location so they can send you a 20 percent off coupon when you’re near their store.
Third, and I think this is key, moms might help geolocation take off. Today’s moms are smartphone mavens, and always on the hunt for deals. Put mobile, deals and moms together and you’ve got a win-win situation. So if your business caters to moms, letting them know about mobile offers that don’t require check-ins is a smart move.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva @Rieva and visit her blog at SmallBizDaily.com. Visit her website SmallBizTrendCast to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.